Every year when March 4 rolls around, Shorewood resident Ruth Howard makes a point of celebrating. March 4, 2012, is the date Howard joined the team at Morris Hospital and returned to the career she loves — being a nurse in the hospital setting.
Howard was recently honored for doing what she loves when she was selected Fire Starter of the Month for December at Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers.
Howard says she always remembers wanting to be a nurse ever since she was a little girl. Her father, who passed away at age 50, was a diabetic and had a heart attack at a young age. That gave Howard plenty of exposure to doctors’ offices and hospitals, and she instantly became fascinated with the medical field.
Before joining Morris Hospital, Howard was a medical/surgical nurse for several years and then left the hospital setting to work in managed care and workers’ compensation. While she learned a lot about the insurance side of health care, she missed bedside nursing and accepted a position at Morris Hospital as Case Manager in the Utilization Management department.
As a Case Manager, Howard serves in a number of roles. She interacts and communicates with insurance companies if they need information about a patient’s medical stay. She is involved in coordinating and arranging post hospital care for patients, whether the needs are medical equipment, home health care, or nursing home care. She reviews charts to check for appropriateness of hospital admission and use of hospital resources as well as length of stay.
“Ruth takes such a professional, yet compassionate approach to all patients and their situations that everyone knows her by name,” said co-worker Barb Jett. “She checks in with the nurses, assistants, doctors, patients and their families all the time to make sure patients are receiving excellent care. Her caring personality as a patient advocate sets an example that all should follow.”
One of the special assignments dear to Howard’s heart is Project RED (Re-Engineered Discharge), the nationwide movement that’s aimed at helping patients better understand how to take care of themselves when they leave the hospital so they don’t unnecessarily come back. Howard has been the leader behind the Project RED initiative at Morris Hospital, which so far has focused on reducing readmissions among heart failure patients.
“Ruth puts her heart and soul into whatever she believes will help her patients understand the discharge plan and how to keep themselves out of the hospital while educating the families as well,” adds Jett. “She doesn’t give up until all parties understand and feel satisfied that all of their questions and concerns are taken care of.”
Howard says one of the things she has always loved about being a nurse is patient education.
“I want to empower every patient to take charge of their health care,” she says.”The medical world does not come naturally to a lot of people. We have to figure out for each patient how to make this make sense to them. I have faith that people want to get better, and I rejoice in their successes.”
In early civilizations, fire starters were the individuals who had the important job of keeping the flame alive. As Fire Starter of the Month, Howard received a Grundy County Chamber of Commerce gift certificate, a special “Fire Starter” lapel pin, and a designated parking spot for the month. Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers is the largest employer in Grundy County with over 960 employees.